Is Oktoberfest 2020 still on despite the pandemic?

Oktoberfest 2020
Photo via Mikey__S/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Live concerts, sporting events, large parties and more have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But it seems the world is starting to get back on its feet. The U.K. had its first socially distanced concert in mid-August. New Zealand’s first few rugby games boasted packed stadiums.

But one of the most highly-anticipated global events of the year, Oktoberfest 2020, will not take place. The two-week long beer festival was expecting roughly 6 million attendees from around the world, but officials decided it would be too risky to put on this year.

“As long as there is no vaccine, as long as there is no medicine, special care must be taken,” Bavarian Premier Markus Söder said. 

Officials announced the cancellation five months before Oktoberfest—referred to as ‘Die Wiesn’ by locals—was scheduled to begin. Some local breweries proposed small, local events, but officials decided against it, according to the Guardian. Wiesn boss Clemens Baumgärtner called Oktoberfest a “total work of art that you either do completely or not at all.”

“[Canceling Oktoberfest] is the right decision because—at least for the time being—we cannot ensure that we have a Wiesn that only gives pleasure to everyone, but does not pose any danger,” Baumgärtner said. “Let’s do everything to ensure that we can celebrate a healthy, joyful, happy and fulfilling Oktoberfest in 2021.”

Oktoberfest generated more than €1.2 billion ($1.3 billion) for local breweries and the hospitality industry in 2019, according to NPR. Last year, festival-goers drank more than 1.9 billion gallons of beer and ate at least 430,000 roast chickens, according to Conde Nast Traveler.

The first Oktoberfest was held in 1810 in celebration of Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage. In the past 210 years, Oktoberfest has been canceled 24 times during wars and epidemics. This is the first cancellation since World War II, according to Food and Wine.

Despite Oktoberfest 2020 being canceled in Munich, other cities are marching ahead with their own festivities. Festivals across the United States are proceeding with limited guest numbers. Breweries are offering outdoor dining and takeout options, and some Oktoberfest celebrations are sharing events online.

Sources: Oktoberfest, NPR, Food and Wine, the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveler

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